Democ­racy means an open so­ci­ety

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

THERE is a strug­gle between those who want to strengthen democ­racy by op­erat- ing in the open and those who want prob- lems to be hid­den from pub­lic view. Our courts, which have a duty to up­hold the con­sti­tu­tion, this week ruled in favour of telling the whole story. The Supreme Court of Ap­peal strength­ened our democ­racy by rul­ing as un­con­sti- tu­tional Par­lia­ment’s pol­icy not to al­low the broad- cast of dis­rup­tions of sit­tings. The case stems from the dis­rup­tion of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s 2015 State-of-the-Na­tion ad­dress by op­po­si­tion MPs and the use of jam­ming tech­nol- ogy to pre­vent events be­ing re­ported via cell­phones and the cen­sor­ing of TV broad­casts. Par­lia­ment’s of­fi­cial cam­eras re­mained focused on the S peak- er while the ac­tion was on the cham­ber floor, when EFF MPs were dragged out by se­cu­rity of­fi­cials. In protest, other op­po­si­tion MPs walked out. Ear­lier this year there was a row when the SABC banned staff from broad­cast­ing vi­o­lent protests show­ing the de­struc­tion of pub­lic prop­erty. The ban was widely con­demned and found to be in­valid by the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of SA, which or­dered the SABC to re­verse it. Sev­eral jour­nal­ists who protested against the cen­sor­ship were fired but later re­in­stated by the Labour Court. In this week’s Supreme Court of Ap­peal rul­ing the judges said the sig­nal jam­ming and cen­sor­ing of broad­casts was un­con­sti­tu­tional. It vi­o­lated the prin­ci­ple of an open Par­lia­ment. Cit­i­zens needed to know what their MPs were say­ing and they re­lied on pub­lic re­ports and broad­casts. They were say­ing the me­dia must be al­lowed to do their jobs. The same ar­gu­ment ap­plies to the stu­dent pro- tests. Some stu­dents and univer­sity se­cu­rity per- son­nel have at­tacked jour­nal­ists record­ing the de- struc­tion of prop­erty. Stu­dents need to re­alise for their is­sues to be prop­erly de­bated by so­ci­ety they also have to re­spect the role the me­dia plays in an open democ­racy.

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